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Girl Geek of the Week
June 2003

Cyndi Webb

Isca Greenfield-Sanders

Saying that it runs in the family could be a huge understatement. Isca is a member of a critically-acclaimed artmaking family. Usually, having a famed photographer and filmmaker as a father, a sculptor for an uncle and an abstract-impressionist painter grandfather would make one shy away from an art career altogether, but Isca Greenfield-Sanders hasn't blinked an eye, or cowered under the pressure. She has entered new territory all on her own, creating art with untraditional and highly innovative approaches.

Still her family's creative spirit shines through her work. Her paintings embody both the realism of photography and the expressiveness of a painter's brushstroke, but there is something more. Behind the artistic mystique, lies a self-proclaimed nerd. Isca's interest in math at an early age stretched into her academic career, leading to a dual major in math and painting at Brown University. A marriage of two extremes to some, her discovery of computers fostered these interests, leading to a critical turning point in her painting career and a newfound medium for artmaking.

She first takes found objects -- photographs, and what follows is a high-tech exercise in mixed media, combining watercoloring, printing, multiple scanning, photography, digital composition and image manipulation in Photoshop, as well as oil painting. The result is a collection of printed sections, meticulously set up in a grid-like format like pieces of a puzzle to create one collosal masterpiece. The process itself goes against all tradition, pushing the boundaries and blurring the definition of what art is, but the images revive traditional themes of family, memory, love, loss and nostalgia.

Her innovative art process and the nature of her work have made her one of the most sought after emerging artists in New York. But it's hard to consider her an "emerging artist". She has had five solo shows within the past four years, the first while she was still taking her undergraduate courses. She has been profiled by major publications such as Vogue, Oprah Magazine, and Wired and she has already sold one of her painting to the Guggenheim Museum. All of this by the age of 25.

Needless to say, we are very excited to have Isca as our Girl Geek of the Week. Her passion for creative expression and enthusiasm for technology is indeed a powerful combination that will lead her to new avenues yet to be explored in the artmaking process. This week, she shares with us how technology has brought her artistic ideas into reality as well as her insight on the mentoring of girls in math and science.

Tell us more about yourself and your background with technology.

My first computer was an apple IIc. My grandfather, Arnold Greenfield was the first person to have a computer in my family, he believed that you were never too old to be on the forefront of technology. I had a brief period where I switched over to the dark side and had "non apple" computers… but quickly regained my senses. In college I bought my first large scale Epson printer with archival ink sets and began developing the technique that I currently employ to make my paintings.

When did you first discover your love or obsession with technology and new media?

I first discovered my love for technology when it helped me to make the paintings that I imagined into reality. I had so many ideas for the way I wanted a painting to look, and my hand by itself only provided me with so many options. Adding the computer and the printer to my list of tools boosted my previous capabilities and allowed me to produce what I really wanted.

Were you encouraged as a child to learn more about and participate in science, math and more technical-oriented projects?

Both my parents encouraged me to be a good student… but I was a born math chick. I picked my high school (Brearley) because of it's strong math program (despite the fact that it was all girls) and I picked my college (Brown) because they would let me double major in math and painting. For my eight grade science fair I built a working steam powered ride on lawn mower.

Did you have a mentor in the field or anyone who inspired you to use technology in your work?

Mike and Doug Starn are artists who inspired me from a very young age to mix techniques and technologies to make artwork. Also, the inventor Henry Gifford has been an inspiration to me. He is a heating systems specialist who seems to see no real difference between art and science. This kind of thinking is quite freeing.

How much of mentoring is important to women in technology?

I joked earlier that I went to my high school despite the fact that it was all girls, but in fact that was very important to me. I was worried that in a co-ed high school I wouldn't get enough encouragement in the math and sciences and would be convinced to exclusively pursue my artistic side. Mentoring is particularly important for girls who can't choose to go to a single sex school the way that I did. Girls have to be shown that excelling at Math and Science is not just for boys.

What do you think we need to do to get more women interested in technology?

Teach parents to encourage their girls to not to choose "what they are good at" too early. Especially in Math, I found that girls got discouraged and then continued to have a hard time when math didn't come immediately to them. Boys seem to be less intent on immediate perfection.

How did you become interested in art and when did you decide to start integrating new media and technology to your art making?

I am a third generation artist. My grandfather Joop Sanders is an abstract expressionist painter, my uncle John Sanders is a sculptor and my father is a photographer. You might say I was destined to become an artist. I started to integrate new media into my art making in college after becoming dissatisfied with the limits of the more traditional techniques. I wanted a way to combine all these beautiful ways of making images from the past, I needed the computer to collect and unify seemingly disparate elements. I use photography, printmaking, watercolor and oil paintings all in one painting now with the help of scanning printing and Photoshop.

In your opinion, in what other ways do you think technology would better serve society?

I don't know, I will have to leave that question up to others.

What advice can you give to girls or women who are just beginning to learn about technology and new media?

There are no limits. When someone says "oh, that technology doesn't exist" this simply means that you have to invent it. The hardest thing to have is vision.

What do you do when you aren't working and thinking about the next project?

I am never not working. It is not in my DNA to relax.

What are your current or future projects?

I just finished painting a show for the Galerie Klüser in Munich Germany. I am exhausted, and thinking of taking the summer off to only make little landscape paintings (my first love). Also, I just got engaged so I will probably spend some time planning the wedding with my fiancé, Sebastian Blanck (a fellow painter).

Any favorite websites, tech tools or cool devices to recommend?

Not really. I am pretty old school. I really like Television, I think it is fascinating. Tivo / Replay TV changed my life because now I go out without missing my favorite shows (of which there are many).

Do you consider yourself a "Geek"?



Photo: By Timothy Greenfield-Sanders



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